By Dan Simmons, Mark Berman, Reis Thebault
The Washington Post
MILWAUKEE - A Molson Coors employee stormed the brewery's sprawling Milwaukee campus Wednesday afternoon, killing five of his co-workers before turning the gun on himself, police said.
Authorities did not identify the 51-year-old shooter, who the company's CEO said was an active employee at the facility, a local institution that employs more than 1,000 people on the city's west side. They did not discuss a possible motive for the killings and did not name the victims.
"This is a tragic day for our city, this is a tragic day for our state," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said at a Wednesday evening news conference.
The rampage is the first shooting of four or more people in 2020, according to a Washington Post database. The mass shooting adds to a list of victims that continues to grow as gunmen attack schools, houses of worship and workplaces.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said it was Wisconsin's 11th mass shooting since 2004, and he urged residents to "never grow comfortable in the face of these repeated tragedies."
"Another senseless American tragedy," Barnes told reporters. "One that shouldn't have to happen, and unfortunately it's in our backyard."
Gavin Hattersley, CEO of Molson Coors, said in a companywide email that the Milwaukee brewery would shut down until further notice "to ensure our people have time to cope with today's events."
"There are no words to express the deep sadness many of us are feeling right now," Hattersley wrote.
As reports of the Milwaukee shooting first surfaced, live footage from near the facility showed a massive police response, from local officers and SWAT teams to federal agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Milwaukee police arrived on the campus at 2:08, Chief Alfonso Morales said. Minutes later, the company sent a bulletin to its workforce, warning them of an "active shooter" in one of the complex's buildings, employees said. When officers arrived, they found the five victims and the shooter, Morales said, adding that no one else was injured.
The scale of the Molson Coors campus - home to more than 20 buildings, including corporate offices and brewing facilities - and the number of employees on duty have made clearing the scene a difficult task that would likely last into the night, Morales said. But, he stressed, there is no longer an active threat.
The brewery was founded as Miller Brewing in 1855, and it's part of Milwaukee's rich history of beer brewing, which inspired the name of the city's Major League Baseball team.
Experts have found that mass attacks in public spaces, including violence at workplaces, often follow warning signs and red flags. An FBI study released in 2018 examined dozens of active shooters between 2000 and 2013 and found that these attackers had often concerned the people around them before attacking familiar places.
Most of the shooters studied, like other mass killers, had a sense of grievance or victimization, including anger stemming from things including losing a job.
In some cases, companies fearing workplace violence have hired security experts to help train employees in possible warning signs. Some deadly mass attacks in recent years have also come quickly after attackers lost their jobs. A gunman in Aurora, Ill., killed five people last year at a warehouse shortly after being told that he was losing his job.
In other cases, though, investigators said the motive was a mystery. Authorities said the city engineer who opened fire in Virginia Beach had no record of dangerous encounters with co-workers and had sent a resignation letter to his bosses hours before he began shooting, killing 12.
Alderman Russell Stamper, who represents the complex's district, told reporters that he knows many people who work at Molson Coors.
"It's super sad. It's a horrible situation," he said. "I'm hurt. This is not a good day right now."
Speaking at a White House event, President Trump said a "wicked murderer opened fire" at the facility.
"Our hearts break for them and their loved ones," he said.
As the sun set on a brutally cold and gray Ash Wednesday, the scene remained taped off and scores of police and firefighters circled the building, asking the public to keep its distance.
"Around 2 o'clock, I just heard a lot of sirens," said Nicole Bryant, 35, who lives near the building. "They told us to take cover in our homes but we couldn't do that."
On Bryant's block, a man and a woman dressed in the yellow neon work shirts worn on the brewery's factory floor were arriving to start their shift, but stopped when they saw texts and emails about the shooter.
The two workers remained in their blue SUV two hours later, unable to go to work or leave because they were stuck inside the perimeter.
The woman, a machine operator who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive situation, said they'd heard the shooting happened inside the factory and that there were people killed and injured.
"I'm feeling horrible," she said. "These are people we've worked with for years. They're like family. We spend more time with them than we do at home."